Can a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) include animals? If so, then can it include fiber/wool? It’s not for eating but for art. The world as a whole has supported art since the dawn of time, as a way to communicate and express thoughts and feelings. And it has definitely supported food, but only recently started supporting the fine artisan farmers behind the food. And what a difference that has made in the variety and quality available to local communities. But what about fiber? Fiber has been used for centuries to make clothing and rugs. And the quality of fiber has become evermore luxurious and varied. Sheep now come in a variety of colors and lock structure. Not just the white sheep you see dotting the country side. Only recently (say the last 40 some years) the alpaca industry has come to America. Bringing their luxurious fiber closer to home. And oh how lucky we are. The alpaca is an animal of splendor and enjoyment. There are people/artisans who have spent their lives improving the fiber of alpaca through genetics. The alpaca naturally come in 22 color variations: the spectrum includes white, fawn, brown, grey and black, with all the natural shades in between. But those beautiful fibers are not yet as local as many of us artists would like. However, with the help of the community, more fiber farmers could be closer and more abundant . Family farms could have other ways of making a profit with out breaking up and selling off property. And even small farms could start making a foothold in society. Alpaca like sheep don’t take up much room and are perfect for small family farms.
Little Shiloh is one such small family farm. We boast an expansive 4 acres, 2 of which are fenced for our 7 alpaca. The rest include quail pens, chicken coops , gardens, and greenspace for our kids. And boy does it keep us busy. But we love the food the quail and chickens provide us and the quality fiber the alpaca produce. However I haven’t quite found the niche in which to sell my fiber. And it would be a great relief to my husband if the alpaca could start contributing more to the farm than cuteness and fertilizer for the gardens.
We’ve had a bit of a hard start to the alpaca trade. Trying to find the right mill to spin our prized fiber into yarn was hard. We first found a mill that stated they milled alpaca, only to find out, they didn’t have a clue. Our first batch of yarn was disappointing. We then tried to make some money by breeding our alpaca, only to have our first cria (baby alpaca) die from a birth defect and our second become deformed by an injury. But three’s a charm they say and we now have a 3 month old cria who is lovely and sweet and a complete joy to the family. Legendary lilly is her name and she’s incredible. We have also found a mill who creates award winning alpaca yarn. And we are due for a rather large shipment at the end of September. I only sent off three fleeces last year to try them out and I was thrilled with what I received in return. So this year I sent 9 fleeces. We are going to be rolling in yarn if we don’t find some community knitters and spinners to help take it off our hands.
So if any of you fiber artists out there want to support your local fiber farm please visit our website www.littleshiloh.com and sign up for our CSA. We offer raw fleeces (available in April) , roving, and yarn ( available in October).